Sep 27, 2013
September 25 was the deadline for an important defense appeal: Berta Caceres has been sentenced to serve time in prison and her colleagues' freedom of movement has been curtailed. And why? Because they stood up for a local community, the Lenca people, who were not consulted about the construction of a hydroelectric project on their lands. Let the Honduran authorities know that this violation of human rights is not acceptable. We firmly believe that Berta Cáceres's life is in danger if she is sent to prison.
We demand that the Honduran authorities
Immediately suspend the arrest warrant against Berta Caceres
Stop all judicial persecution of Aureliano Molina, Tomas Gomez and Victor Fernandez
Suspend the eviction order of the Lenca people in Rio Blanco
The four activists have been working with the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to protest a planned hydroelectric project, a joint operation involving the Honduran government and a national company called Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA), in the Rio Blanco territory of the country. The population of Rio Blanco has strongly objected to the project since its inception. International human rights instruments, such as ILO Convention 169, compel the Honduran state to meaningfully consult with the local population and protect indigenous lands.
The local Lenca people, working with COPINH, have been protesting against the continued efforts by the government and DESA to push ahead with the project. The government has used the ongoing protests as a pretext to militarize the area.
DESA, a Honduran company, working with a large team of lawyers, has been engaged in legal harthrassment of the COPINH leaders for months. The activists have faced a variety of spurious charges, including, most recently, coercion, theft and damages against the company. On September 20, Judge Knight Lisseth Lissien handed down a jail sentence to Berta Caceres, and punitive measures for her colleagues – including ordering them to stay away from Rio Blanco and report every 15 days to court.
These events are taking place in the context of a widening crackdown on peaceful dissent in Honduras. Since this government seized power in a coup, opponents of the government and its interests have been intimidated, persecuted and even murdered. COPINH is one of a number of Honduran organizations who have spoken up in defense of human rights and land rights and who have faced this persecution. This cannot continue.
We demand an end to the judicial harassment of the COPINH leaders, immediate suspension of the arrest warrant for Berta Caceres, an end to the criminalization of social movements in Honduras, and respect for the right of Peoples to be consulted on projects affecting their territories.
Sep 23, 2013
Honduran and international social movements have spoken out against the sentencing of Bertha Cáceres , Aureliano Molina and Thomas Gomez, members of COPINH members (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) last Friday, September 20. They were charged with theft, coercion and damage to DESA , a company implementing a hydroelectric project in the ancestral lands of the indigenous Lenca.
The decision, taken by Judge Reyes Lissien Knight (who did not appear in court), as requested by the Public Ministry and the company, included prison for COPINH coordinator, Berta Caceres and punitive measures for her fellow activists.
The charges are a government response to the activists' peaceful efforts to defend community lands, indigenous knowledge, and local ecosystems.
Friends of the Earth International is urgently consulting with local partners and hopes to provide further updates in the near future. Spanish speakers can listen to interviews and updates on Radio Mundo Real.
We are very grateful for all of your support so far.
Letter from Russian social and ecological organizations to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.
The Russian Federal Security Bureau Border Service has detained the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise while it was situated in international waters in the vicinity of the exclusive economic zone of the Russian Federation, and is now escorting the ship to the port of Murmansk.
The aim of the Arctic Sunrise expedition was to draw public attention to environmentally unsound drilling in the Arctic, in particular the Gazprom Neft Shell project in the Prirazlomnoe field.
It should be noted that Gazprom Neft Shell, whose draft plan has been strongly criticized by leading Russian experts in the field of oil and gas security of production in 2012, has not fulfilled its promises to establish a dialogue with civil society and to submit project materials for public discussion.
The detention of environmental activists is particularly cynical in the Year of the Environment and on the eve of the International Arctic Forum in Salekhard, the main theme of which should be the environmental security of the Arctic.
Given the extremely high social importance of environmental security in the Arctic, as well as the exclusively peaceful nature of the actions of the protesters, public organizations of Russia and the CIS urge you to release the crew of the "Arctic Sunrise" and the activists that are on it.
Signed by more then forty Russian human rights and environmental organizations.
Friends of the Earth International calls for the immediate release of the crew of the Arctic Sunrise.
Friends of the Earth International is calling for the immediate release of the crew of the Greenpeace vessel the Arctic Sunrise.
The ship was peacefully protesting at an oil rig in the Russian Economic Exclusion Zone in international waters. The Russian coastguard attacked activists as they prepared to stage their protest, slashing inflatable dingies, firing warning shots and threatening the protesters with guns and knives. The following day, September 19, the ship was boarded by the Federal Security Bureau (FSB). It has since been towed to the Russian port of Murmansk in a move that has been widely described as illegal under international law. Following a short stint in court, the activists have been remanded in custody for the next two months, pending an investigation.
The peaceful protest targeted the Prirazlomnaya oil rig, operated by Gazprom, which is due to be the first rig to begin oil production in the delicate environment of the Arctic seas. Arctic drilling is particularly dangerous. Given the extreme weather conditions and the great distances from emergency help, the possibility of a disaster is very likely. Royal Dutch Shell, having recently been banned from drilling in the American Arctic, has partnered with Gazprom to exploit Russia's Arctic shelf.
This high profile case is taking place in the context of a broader crackdown on civil society organizations in Russia. Friends of the Earth International wishes to take this opportunity to also express its solidarity with Russian environmental and human rights organizations working in this difficult context and supports this statement regarding the Arctic Sunrise. Peaceful protests help to protect our shared environment and are fundamental to any free thinking society.
Jagoda Munic, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, said:
“It is scandalous that Greenpeace activists are facing these criminal charges in Russia following a peaceful protest to highlight the very real dangers of drilling in the Arctic - we fully support the call for their immediate release. The real crime is the continued exploitation of the Arctic – in the face of catastrophic climate change we should be leaving dirty fossil fuels in the ground.
“These activists were standing up for the millions of people who are already facing droughts, floods and a loss of their livelihoods because of climate change impacts - it's the dirty energy companies risking the lives of millions who should be answering for their activities.”
Learn more and take action on the website of Greenpeace International www.greenpeace.org
Sep 20, 2013
Surprising as it may seem, many environmentalists are opposed to large-scale tree plantations.
September 21 is the International Day against Tree Plantations: industrial-scale tree monocultures that produce pulp for paper, wood, oils and agrofuels.
There has been a massive finance-driven increase in large-scale plantations over the last few years.
As part of efforts to counter climate change, large-scale tree plantations have also been increasingly posited as "carbon sinks" and have started to "generate" tradeable carbon credits in financial markets.
Several financial institutions, large corporations and investment banks are 'financialising' nature: a process whereby financial markets create new "financial assets" and new ownership rights.
But continuing to 'financialise' nature will surely lead to disaster, considering the abundance of financial crises-in-the-making dotting the landscape. 
Financialisation reduces the value of everything traded to its financial utility -- or a derivative of this -- whose future price, in the case of nature, is proportionate to its scarcity. With the ongoing destruction of the environment, this scarcity is likely to become increasingly lucrative.
Financialisation allows large corporations and industrialised countries to continue releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere guilt-free while buying hollow carbon credits.
But nature, biodiversity and forests need to be protected and not subjected to speculation on irresponsible financial markets.
Moreover, positing tree plantations as 'carbon sinks' is a patently false solution, which utterly fails to compensate for the loss of native forests.
Serious doubts exist about the quantity of carbon these plantations really absorb and the length of time that it remains absorbed.
Plantations are not forests. Plantations do not possess the rich biological and social diversity that characterizes forests. On the contrary, they have serious negative consequences: displacement of entire communities, violations of peoples' rights, damage to local culture, widespread violence, pesticide pollution, loss of biological diversity and disturbance of hydrological cycles.
All of which has enormous consequences for nature and the communities who depend on it, with women being particularly affected. Unfortunately, there are many examples of the destruction of cultures, and historical and communal rights as a result of large-scale plantations.
What we need is more forests managed by local communities and fewer plantations managed and financed by large corporations.
Unfortunately, the interests of large corporations drive reforms in national and international politics, which helps them to take control of biodiversity and forests.
Contrary to common sense and the demands of civil society organisations, financial markets are infiltrating the economy and society more and more under the guise of the "natural resource economics".
Financial markets, institutions and elites are continuing to increase not just profits but also an enormous influence over economic policy. The state is increasingly serving the interests of the financial markets and elites.
At the same time, this process translates into greater social, workplace and environmental exploitation. Similarly it overturns the rights won by Indigenous People and the role of the state in securing those rights.
Financialisation harms biodiversity and nature, by subjecting them to ownership and control as financial assets.
But we can still stop the financialisation of nature. This significant step would defend forests, communities and Indigenous People, as well as help to halt corporate control of nature.
 The Economist, September 7, 2013 : 'Where's the next Lehman?' Editorial, page 12.
Sep 19, 2013
Ecuador led a call to the UN Human Rights Council to create more binding, enforceable, international human rights obligations for transnational corporations (TNCs), on Friday September 13. Ecuador's petition is supported by nine other nations, mostly from the South , and hundreds of civil society organizations worldwide, including Friends of the Earth International. TNCs continue to bear a large share of the blame for environmental, social and labor abuses around the world. Too often, unsafe or inhumane working conditions and environmental degradation lie in the dark shadows cast by giant TNCs .
The Ecuador petition is a sign of growing impatience with an ongoing process, which has been personified in the figure of Professor John Rugge, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). To (over) simplify, the principles are a set of voluntary guidelines, obliging signatories (including businesses) to take responsibility for their operations and to do 'due diligence' on the human rights contexts in their spheres of operation. The principles, though still in a relatively early phase of development, have been popularly slammed for not going far enough. This latest Ecuadoran initiative is welcomed by over one hundred social movements and civil society organizations, including Friends of the Earth International. They argue that the voluntary framework is symptomatic of a CSR-led approach that facilitates corporate impunity by allowing TNCs to appear to remedy the ill consequences of their operations, without taking any meaningful action at all.
Looking at the events of recent years reveals many instances of the persistence of corporate impunity and government failure to take action. The workers killed and injured in the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, the slaughter of miners in the Lonmin Plcs platinum mine in South Africa, or Ecuador's failure to comply with the decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights regarding the Sarayaku indigenous people are just some of the many examples of the failure of businesses and governments to meet their obligations.
“There is no doubt that transnational corporations have the obligation to respect the law, and if they do not, they must suffer the civil and penal sanctions,” said Lucia Ortiz, Coordinator of the Economic Justice Program of Friends of the Earth International. And face the consequences they must, but questions persist about how best to do this. However, characterizing the Ecuadoran initiative as new is to forget that it is just one in a series of (often far more elaborate and detailed) proposals such as the 2003 'Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights', which have, like their voluntary counterparts, failed to introduce meaningful, binding mechanisms.
Problems to the implementation of a working set of human rights laws that would hold TNCs and their mother governments responsible for their actions are manifold. TNCs often fight hard to resist regulation. Existing approaches, whether products of the UN Human Rights Council, the International Labour Organization, or a regional human rights body, are all largely unenforceable. More worrying still is that national laws and regulations covering workplace safety, environmental responsibilities, etc. are often comprehensive, robust and utterly ignored in many 'competitive' countries around the world where human rights abuses are rife. Meanwhile, countries that are home to some of the world's largest corporations, such as Canada, the USA, China, Brazil and many EU countries, are unwilling to fully implement the oversights necessary to ensure that companies with a home within their borders respect human rights in their operations.
The trouble with voluntary principles is that many parties view them as an almighty standard of correct human rights behavior; a rubber stamp to be flaunted for its apparent merit, but sorely lacking in real meaning and consequence. While due diligence and other aspects of any voluntary principles are only to be commended, they certainly are not enough to ensure fair treatment for people around the world or the minimization of the environmental violence perpetrated by so many TNCs, so in critiquing the damaging elements of the UNGPs and other CSR strategies we would be unwise to ditch the baby with the bath water. Likewise, if the Ecuador led proposal is to stand out from earlier, similar incarnations, further thinking is needed on how to ensure compliance and the cooperation of governments and businesses.
Three activists from Honduras will go to court tomorrow (September 20) on trumped-up charges brought by the government. The false charges are a government response to their organization's peaceful efforts to defend community lands, indigenous knowledge, and the local ecosystem. The Honduran government has often proven sensitive to international pressure. Let's put the pressure on again. Please sign and SHARE this petition far and wide!
You don't just build forest
Monoculture tree plantations have been posited as solutions to a wide array of environmental problems, notably as a contributing solution to climate change. We define monoculture tree plantations as industrial-scale tree monocultures that produce pulp for paper, wood, oils and agrofuels. Unfortunately the logic informing these assertions is fundamentally flawed – you don't just build forest. The video below from Radio Mundo Real explains...
But more worrying still, is that the practice of throwing up these artificial forests around the world has led to some deeply disturbing practices. People have lost their land, animal habitats have been destroyed, and irreparable damage has been done to natural and historical heritage.
Hand in hand with this phenomenon is the financialisation of nature, a process whereby financial markets create new "financial assets" and new ownership rights for all things in nature.
You can read more about Friends of the Earth International's commentary on this year's International Day against Monoculture Tree Plantations.
Sep 10, 2013
On September 12, Berta Caceres, Tomás Gomez, and Aureliano Molina, leaders of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) must appear in court.
They are charged with usurpation of land, coercion, and causing more than $3 million in damages to DESA, a hydroelectric dam company. Berta, the general coordinator of COPINH and an internationally recognized human rights defender is also facing separate charges of illegally carrying arms “to the danger of the internal security of Honduras.”
COPINH, with support of Friends of the Earth Honduras, FoE members and allies in the region and around the world are calling on the government of Honduras to
1) drop the charges against Berta, Tomás, Aureliano, and all others defending their lands,
2) cancel the dam concession in Rio Blanco and stop the project,
3) respect ancestral territories, and
4) stop the violence against indigenous communities
How you can support the call
Send an e-mail to the Honduran government urging them to stop the judicial persecution of COPINH and to US officials urging them to end military aid to the Battalion stationed in Rio Blanco.
Call the Honduran authorities on September 10 and urge them to stop the criminalization of COPINH.
In the United States rallies are being organized in various cities including New Orleans, New York and San Francisco. Check out this Facebook Page for more information
Sep 09, 2013
Friends of the Earth Europe comes with new figures on the eve of a crucial vote in the European Parliament on biofuels policy.
Europe’s drivers are being forced to fill their tanks with increasing amounts of rainforest-destroying palm oil new figures released today show. Palm oil use has increased much more than predicted and is now at 20% of the biodiesel mix in Europe.
Today Members of the European Parliament discuss the EU's contentious biofules policy with a vote expected on 11 September. MEPs are under pressure to limit the use of biofuels which are contributing to climate change, deforestation and rising food prices.
According to Robbie Blake, biofuels campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe "it is alarming to find that palm oil use in European cars is sky-rocketing. Drivers are unknowingly being forced to fill up with a fuel that is destroying rainforests, communities and the climate.”
Deforestation in Indonesia
Biodiesel made from oil palm is considered the most damaging biofuel on the European market. It is linked to rapid deforestation in South East Asia which is causing climate changing carbon emissions, forest fires and smog across the region.
Nur Hidayati, head of campaigns for Friends of the Earth Indonesia (WALHI), is folloiwing the development of Europe’s biofuels policy with anxiety. "This enormous increase in palm oil demand in Europe is escalating deforestation, land grabbing, and conflicts in Indonesia. Biofuels demand must be capped and reduced otherwise Europe will only intensify the problems for Indonesian people affected by palm oil expansion.”
Unless MEPs vote to limit demand for biofuels, EU reliance on palm oil will keep increasing to fulfil targets for 2020.